Thursday, October 29, 2009

New music

I have to say that after a few days of listening to modern composers I am pretty surprised...! Some of this music is exciting, and engaging. I really enjoy Ravel, Rachmoninoff, Sibelius, Bartok, Prokofiev, and many others. I honestly wasn’t expecting it to be as engaging as it is. I played this one for Jackie that was totally atonal and she said that she didn’t care that it didn’t have a tonal center, that it just sounded like music to her. That was pretty encouraging to me. I have been so worried about it. I finished my first atonal piece today it is on French Horn and not too bad. It was a pretty intense learning experience for me, I started off using a pitch class set 0234579, (for those of you people who know nothing about theory check the bottom) and was doing a good job of sticking to it but my teacher told me that I didn’t really need too, which made me feel relieved but also kinda made me mad because it was some kind of order in the chaotic world of atonality. Also because it was a fun challenge to work within and to try to manipulate to something more than just a random set of pitches. The piece starts out in 5/8 time and starts with 8th note 5ths moving up EBF# then goes to thirds CE, right above the B, The beginning kinda sounds like satellites by Dave Matthew’s band, (one of the few I have heard by them btw) But then changes the 0 in the set. to B rather than A, It is just a sequence of the original but adds a good variation in my opinion. It then moves a totally different direction switching to 16th notes that pull away totally from the set starting the B section of the A section(?(don’t worry I’m confused too)) I am going to stop explaining and let you look at what I did.

and just in case you can’t read music...

The piece isn’t done yet considering dynamics and stuff like that. I also feel like the end isn’t quite together yet. I am however excited that I have completed my first atonal piece!

A pitch class set is a set of pitches that aren’t dependent on a key but on where they sit in relationship to each other. For example the set I was working with was 0234579 if I start this set on C than my pitches would be
0 2 3 4 5 7 9
or if I started on F they would be
F G G#/Ab A Bb C D
0 2 3 4 5 7 9
So what I do is try to write a song that moves around those pitches rather than a sequence of Chords, like a typical I IV V I chord succession. Which is a totally different world and if you want an explanation of that you can ask.

Monday, October 26, 2009


When I first started studying music I remember Nick Hein get really frustrated in class, saying all we are doing is cheap parlor tricks in order to make music sound good. He was talking about Secondary function and modulations. I remember agreeing with him. When He said that to Ike, Ike made a statement that has been pretty influential in my approach to writing music. He said “is the point of writing music to be creative, or is it to show people heaven?” Since I am a Christian I have wondered about this pretty intensely, I feel like I came to somewhat of an answer last spring when I saw the CCU choir perform “All My Heart” by Z Randall Stroope. I touched God in that song. I felt his presence come over me and I realized how lovely He is! I remember thinking for the first time that it didn’t matter what we did in heaven because we would be with Him. I am now in my first semester of Composition lessons and am totally frustrated but utterly challenged. My teacher has totally pushed me away from my comfort zone, so it has been quite a challenge. But the directions that he is pushing me makes me wonder if it is relevant. As a composer I want to write music that is relevant to people, but is also laced with my creativity and that of the Holy Spirit. I have been working in mostly atonal for a few weeks now and feel a great many things toward it. Apathetic. Excited. But I am still wondering if it is possible to make it relevant to people? Which kind of feels like a new challenge. My teacher has talked a lot about being a songwriter vs being a composer. A song writer is dependent on talent to write while a composer is dependent on talent and the mastery of their craft. He also challenged me dive myself into the modern music world and search for things that I like. I went to the library and checked out like 10 cd’s of modern composers I like some of it but I feel like the whole feel of it is so random that eventually the same types of ideas come about. Chromatic digressions moving downward really fast. Random notes on the piano that don’t really pull on the heart but are interesting to listen to. If as a composer stuff like that is all I become capable of writing I say no thanks. Part of me also worries that once I move that direction I won’t really be able to come back.